Dr. Alison Weidner
Class of 1996
What made you decide to pursue OB/Gyn as a career?
I knew early on that I wanted to be involved in a surgical or interventional field because I love technical skills and procedures. I also found that I enjoyed getting to know patients and caring for them over a longer period of time than most of the surgical fields permitted. When I rotated on OBGYN as a student and got along famously with most of the residents, that sealed it for me.
What made you decide to go into urogynecology?
Before residency I had considered general surgery and had had a great exposure to reconstructive plastic surgery. Urogyn offered me an opportunity to combine those interests in women’s healthcare, with surgical procedures that appealed to my interest in anatomy and function, with some element of creativity. I also liked that the science of the field was really just getting started with all kinds of opportunities there as well.
What made you choose BWH/MGH as your residency?
It was clearly the BEST place in the nation to train from the variety of top notch faculty, the range of general and subspecialty practices, and (what was then) the intern year of surgery/medicine/OBGYN. When I interviewed I was impressed with the number of enthusiastic residents who showed up for interview events and their collegiality when I spent time with them beyond the interview schedule. I felt that indicated they were invested in attracting top candidates to join them.
What unique preparation did the BWH/MGH Ob/Gyn residency give you for your career?
I had the good fortune to be mentored by Eboo Versi during residency, who advised me about the feasibility of urogyn at that particular time, when only the earliest programs were accredited and certification was in the distant future. He provided much needed introductions to leaders of the field, some of whom became invaluable mentors as I progressed through my career. May Wakamatsu showed me how an academic urogyn practice could work, and gave me tremendous guidance as I asked questions about the field. I feel like I have benefitted significantly from being in the right place at the right time, and starting out from BWH/MGH was a part of that. It’s not uncommon for patients to tell me they sought out my profile online and came to see me in part because of the institutions at which I trained. Harvard in your background is universally regarded as indicative of excellence.
How does your current position correspond to where you envisioned yourself as you finished residency?
I’m pretty much where I positioned myself to be. I spend probably 60-70% of my time in clinical care, research, and teaching. The rest is administrative working to build what we need to meet our department’s data science and clinical operations objectives, and working with others across the health system on similar initiatives.
Do you have a favorite memory from residency?
I can recall being gently corrected by Dr Repke at morning rounds after I off-handedly mentioned permitting a laboring patient to have what I considered a harmless (but admittedly not evidence based) intervention by her labor nurse. I think of that often when I contemplate the various practices we currently engage in for patient care—and what’s the evidence (or unfortunately often the lack thereof) supporting them.
What do you miss from residency?
My classmates! We were tight, and I was honored to be part of such an impressive group. Purple OB patient cards are a fond and now obsolete memory. I also miss Kupel’s bakery, chicken noodle soup from Au Bon Pain (I think I had gallons of it), counting smoots on Mass Ave bridge, and running on the Esplanade. There’s nothing quite like rounding a corner on one of those bridges and being hit with the wind off the bay. Everybody gets busy with life and I think it has been hard to connect back with my class and others of those who I knew as residents and fellows.
If you could go back and give advice to your intern class, what advice would you give?
As you contemplate your first career steps, consider less focus on a specific clinical area, rather perhaps think about it from the perspective of what gives you satisfaction in your work. How do I like to think? How much collaboration do I need with teams vs a smaller group? How much control do I want over my day to day activities or schedule? What kind of time scale do I like to work under? What do I want for my life outside of work? Do I get satisfaction from broad expertise or being THE expert in a more focused area? Also, take a look at the careers of people who are doing the jobs you are considering for yourself. Do you someday see yourself being where they are in their mid career? These kinds of questions might help you decide whether a career you think is attractive right now will still be attractive for the bulk of your professional life.
What is the most rewarding part of your current job?
I really get a charge out of seeing patients back in the office and having them express gratitude for what we are able to do for them; I can honestly tell them it makes my day to hear about that. Many had perceived they couldn’t expect such improvement, or that there were no good treatments available for their problems. I also really love watching fellows and residents mature in their surgical skills and their surgical decision making. I like having the ability to be able to cultivate that kind of intangible and somewhat artistic capacity.